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Britain's oldest rocks

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In August 1994, Britain's top science journal, Nature, announced that a team of scientists working at the University of Cambridge had found Europe's oldest rocks at a remote location near to Gruinard Bay in the Scottish Highlands. They reported ancient volcanic rocks with an age of 3300 million years. This was more than 300 million years older than any age previously measured on rocks in the British Isles and between 100 and 200 million years older than any rocks known in Europe. The discovery of itself is in many ways unremarkable, for much older rocks are known from ancient continental shield areas in Canada, Australia and Greenland. What was important was that the reported age did not agree with any of the other measured ages known within the British Isles. This was highlighted in a comment in the same issue of Nature, which suggested that the new data were so important that they require a massive revision of our views on the earliest history of the British Isles. For other scientists, however, the conflict between these new data and previously reported ages began to raise questions about the methods employed in dating the ‘oldest rocks’.
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Document Type: Original Article

Affiliations: Department of Geography and Geology, Cheltenham and Gloucester College of Higher Education

Publication date: September 1, 1997

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